Once upon a time, a 26-year-old bachelorette fell in love with a recently separated father of three who was 13 years older than her. This single father of three lived outside of a small town, had a wheat field in his back yard and a very established life. On the other hand, this 26-year-old was really just getting her life started.
As a child of divorce herself, she knew firsthand how complicated this new life would be, but she was so in love that she decided to follow her heart, pick up her life and become a stepmom.
This girl was me.
About 7 years ago to be exact.
Not only did I move to the small town that my husband lived in with his three kids.
I moved to the town where he lived with his first wife.
… into the same house that he lived in with his first wife.
… and became part of the community that he was part of with his first wife.
If you’re not a stepmom who has found herself in this type of situation before, chances are you’re thinking “well obviously… we get it… what’s the point here?”
The point is, I had no friends in the area.
It was just me, the kids, my husband and the wheat field.
I often describe the transition to being a stepmom, as similar to moving to another country where they speak a different language. There was some major culture shock.
I felt VERY alone.
Sure, I had my friends from before (By the way, most of them thought I was nuts for hooking up with a man with kids).
Yes, he introduced me to people.
But I felt very much like the new girl. An outsider if you will.
I wish I could describe to you how insecure I felt in this new life, but I am not confident that I can accurately get the point across.
Despite presenting as very confident and like I had it all together, my anxiety and insecurities were at an all time high.
Before going to social events, I would change my clothes SEVERAL times. I wanted to make a good impression on all the wives. I couldn’t help but have assumptions about what they thought about his “new young wife.”
I had butterflies before walking into the hockey arena.
Going to work events with my husband made me want to throw up.
I felt so out of place. I felt so new. I felt so out of the loop.
Don’t get me wrong, despite a few snide remarks, the friends he introduced me to were great.
But from the very beginning, I felt this urge to create my own identity.
I wasn’t going to be slot into a role. I didn’t want to force friendships with people simply because they were friends with my husband and his ex.
To be completely honest, I didn’t really have interest in being friends with someone who was still friends with her.
Not in a petty way, but in an “I want my own identity and don’t want to step on anyone’s toes” kind of way.
I was determined to create my own life outside of our marriage.
7 years, and many anxiety-ridden nights later, I’m happy to say I’ve done that. I truly have.
I have developed real, authentic, safe friendships with a handful of phenomenal women. I have created an identity outside of being my “husband’s new wife” - in fact, time after time, I am blown away by how lucky I am.
Since I know there are so many stepmoms, mostly younger childless ones, who have also picked up their lives to move in with their new husband and his kids, I’ve decided to share 5 Tips for Making Friends As The New Stepmom.
If there is an event, go.
If there is a hockey game, go.
If you have an opportunity to get out of the house, go.
You’re not going to make friends if you don’t put yourself in situations where that is possible. So push through the your insecurities and just go!
Go to the hockey arena even though you feel like you could puke because you feel like the other moms are judging you.
Walk in, head high, and pretend that you’re confident – no one has to know that you changed your clothes three times before leaving the house.
Smile, make small talk, put yourself out there - and when you do get those snide remarks (because every once in a while, they do happen) remember that’s more about them than it is about you.
You may have people who aren’t friendly to you. You may feel uncomfortable. But amongst women at the hockey arena who may be besties with the ex – you’ll find some gems. Some new potential friends. You cannot connect with them, if you don’t go.
Note: Substitute hockey arena for whatever activity your stepkids are in.
2. PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
If you find someone that you connect with – and have connected with on a few different occasions - ask them if they want to grab a coffee sometime.
If that seems too aggressive, arrange a playdate with the kids so you can have another opportunity to connect.
Making friends is kind of like dating – someone has to make the first move.
3. DON’T FEEL PRESSURE TO BE SLOT INTO A ROLE
I was not going to have my friends chosen for me. At the beginning I felt this expectation to be friends with the people my husband used to hang out with on a regular basis. It would have been very convenient for me to dive right in to these friendships.
But they felt forced.
I wanted my own identity. I wanted friendships to develop naturally.
While I encouraged him to maintain those friendships and was more than happy to come with him to social events, I didn’t buy into the pressure to be instant besties with his buddys’ wives.
Sometimes stepmoms feel like they have to keep up with the social life that their husband had during his first marriage. I am here to tell you that you don’t. You don’t need to do the same things or hang out with all the same people. You can switch it up and forge your own identify as a couple.
That doesn’t mean that those friendships aren’t important and shouldn’t continue – I’m simply giving you permission to not have your friends chosen for you.
4. GIVE IT TIME
On the flip side, friends that were friends with your husband and his ex, may be stand-offish with you. Especially the women.
They may feel loyalty to the ex, or still be grieving the loss of the couple they used to spend a lot of time with. OR you may just represent their biggest fear ( getting the BIG D and then their ex husband moving on with a new (young) wife…. just saying).
Don’t take it personally.
Be patient. Give it time. Don’t push yourself on them. As they get to know you, they will see how great you are.
This is another one of those situations where you have to let time do it’s thing.
5. DON’T COMPETE WITH THE EX
I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in being best friends with someone who is friends with my husband’s first wife.
Not in a malicious, high school, “if you want to be friends with her you can’t be friends with me kind of way…“ but in an, “it’s just not necessary, there are lots of kids on the playground kind of way.”
Acquaintances? Absolutely. We share lots of those. But good friends (and that’s not a word I use lightly), thanks, but no thanks.
When I am with my friends, I want to feel safe. I want to know I can say anything and do anything I want.
That doesn’t mean I want to sit around and have a bash fest - it means that there are parts of our lives that we don’t share with everyone. I want to feel safe, and not worry that something may be casually passed on to the other person.
This all depends on your co-parenting relationship - but in my opinion, if someone is good friends with his ex, respect that friendship and let her be. I’m sure she doesn’t want to share her besties with you either!
You have to share so much of your life with her, it’s nice to keep some things separate.
(Unless you’re one of those hearts and sparkles co-parenting relationships with the matching Jerseys - in that case … this probably doesn’t apply to you!)
A few weeks back my husband and I started talking about our group of friends – and we realized that over the last seven years, our social circle has really changed. Yes, we have friends that he had before we were together. Yes, we have friends that I had before I met him too – but we have created our own group of friends.
We didn’t do this intentionally, but as our lives grew together, our friendships naturally changed too.
If you’re in the “new stepmom” stage, and feel like the new girl, and like you’re surrounded by inside jokes that you’re not on the inside of… hang in there girl!
It does get better. Like I said before, it’s one of those situations where you need to let time do its thing!